The last time you ate dinner with family, you were pretty frustrated. Not because of any intra-family drama (though there’s always some of that). No, the cause of the stress was simple: it was loud, and you couldn’t hear anything. So you didn’t hear the details about Nancy’s promotion, and you didn’t have a chance to ask about Todd’s new dog. And that was really annoying. For the most part, you blame the acoustics. But you have to acknowledge that it might be an issue with your hearing.
It can be especially challenging to self-diagnose hearing loss (that’s why, generally, it’s not recommended). But there are some early red flags you should keep on your radar. When enough red flags appear, it’s time to contact us for a hearing exam.
Hearing loss’s early signs
Most of the symptoms of hearing loss are subtle. But you may be experiencing hearing loss if you can relate to any of the items on this list.
Some of the most common initial signs of hearing loss may include:
- You’re suddenly finding it hard to hear when you’re talking on the phone: You might not talk on the phone as often as you once did because you use texting pretty often. But if you’re having difficulty understanding the phone calls you do get (even with the volume turned all the way up), you might be confronting another red flag for your hearing.
- Your ears are ringing: Ringing in your ears is called tinnitus (and, technically, tinnitus can be other sounds as well: screeching, buzzing, humming, thumping, and so on). Tinnitus isn’t always linked to hearing problems, but it is often an early warning sign of hearing loss, so a hearing test is probably in order.
- You keep asking people to repeat themselves. This is particularly true if you’re asking numerous people to slow down, say something again, or speak up. You may not even know you’re making such frequent requests, but it can certainly be an early sign of diminishing hearing.
- You have difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds. Perhaps you just noticed your teapot was screeching after five minutes. Or perhaps the doorbell rings, and you don’t notice it. Early hearing loss is normally most apparent in specific (and often high-pitched) frequencies of sound.
- You have a difficult time following conversations in a crowded or noisy place. This is exactly what occurred during the “family dinner” example above, and it’s commonly an early signal of trouble with hearing.
- You notice it’s difficult to understand certain words. This red flag usually pops up because consonants are beginning to sound similar, or at least, becoming harder to differentiate. Normally, it’s the sh- and th- sounds that are muffled. In some cases, it’s the s- and f-sounds or p- and t-sounds that become conflated.
- A friend notices that your media devices are getting increasingly louder. Maybe the volume on your cell phone keeps getting louder and louder. Or perhaps, your TV speakers are maxed out. Typically, it’s a family member or a friend that points out the loud volumes.
- Normal sounds seem oppressively loud. It’s one of the more unusual early warning signs associated with hearing loss, but hyperacusis is common enough that you might find yourself encountering its symptoms. If specific sounds become unbearably loud (especially if the problem doesn’t go away in short order), that could be an early hearing loss indicator.
Get a hearing exam
No matter how many of these early warning signs you may encounter, there’s really only one way to know, with confidence, whether your hearing is diminishing: get a hearing test.
In general, any single one of these early warning signs could be evidence that you’re developing some kind of hearing impairment. And if any impairment you may have, a hearing assessment will be able to tell you how far gone it is. Once we discover the degree of hearing loss, we can figure out the best course of treatment.
This will help you have a much more enjoyable time at that next family get-together.